A special treat, the opera “Dido and Aeneas” by Henry Purcell (1659-95), with lyrics by Nahum Tate (1652-1715) , was performed in a semi-staged concert version by MasterVoices, formerly known as as The Collegiate Chorale, at New York City Center on April 28 and 29, 2016.
The mighty chorus, of which Ted Sperling is Artistic Director, interrelated with an excellent opera cast that included two theater stars, Kelly O’Hara as Dido and Victoria Clarke as Morta and the Sorceress. The Orchestra of St. Luke’s was conducted by Sperling.
The early example of English opera, inspired by Virgil’s “Aeneid,” originally had a prologue, but has been hopelessly lost to posterity. A new prologue, “The Daughters of Necessity” was created by Michael John LaChiusa, who wrote the music and lyrics. One may argue whether this was a necessary addition or not, especially with its apparent aim to be contemporary. (Is there no escape from Donald Trump?)
The real pleasure stems from when the evening gets down to business with the tale involving O’Hara as Dido, the Queen of Carthage, and her ill-fated love for the Trojan prince, Aeneas. Both O’Hara and Clarke were superb, with Clarke ultimately stealing the show, not only with her vocal power, but dazzlingly dressed in a red gown and with a sumptuous wig.
The ending , of course, is tragic, led up to by a smooth production that included eight dancers choreographed by Doug Varone, who directed. The impressive singers included Anna Christy as Decima and Belinda, Sarah Mesko as Nana and Elliot Madore as Aeneas.
The intermission-less 60-minutes seemed to race by so quickly that I wish I could have seen the work immediately re-performed. At New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street. Reviewed May 1, 2016.